My First Apartment: Renting in the Real World
Your first apartment is a pretty big deal. Yes, moving into the dorms when you start college is a heady experience, but nothing quite compares to signing your first lease, pocketing the keys and walking into an empty space that’s yours to transform into a real home — no more shared bathrooms, no dining halls, no communal TV dens, no lofted beds and no incompatible roommates.
Like many college students, I moved into the dorms when I started college at Iowa State University in 1973. My wife and I got married there, so we then moved into what was called married student housing. Our first “apartment” wasn’t really an apartment at all; it was a house that we rented in my hometown.
I grew up in little Leon, Iowa, the oldest of five children in a family that ran the local livestock auction. In that time, and in that place, no one had much money, and Leon largely consisted of older homes. My wife and I were tickled to find newer construction, an upstairs-downstairs, two-bedroom rental that was barely 5 years old.
If I remember correctly, that home cost us about $100 per month. That seems astonishing by today’s standards, but you have to remember that minimum wage was about $1.40 per hour back then. We filled our home with old, used furniture… we weren’t too picky. We were grateful just to have a couch to sit on!
We loved every inch of that place. Although we were renters, we still felt that it was ours, and even then we recognized that we were starting our adult lives there. That made it special. When I think of it now, so many years and seven children later, I realize how fond my memories are.
When most people remember their first apartments, or their first rental homes, they remember how proud they were of their modest accommodations and their humble possessions. They remember how tight money was in those early post-high school or post-college days, and they recall how hard they worked to maintain what they had and their dreams of getting ahead.
I remember all those things, too. And I cringe to think about what would have happened to us if we would have been robbed, if our rental home had been damaged in a storm, or if it had burned down. Everything we owned was in that building, and we’d worked so hard for it — we didn’t make much money, so to lose everything would have been beyond a setback. It would have been disastrous.
What was true for me 40 years ago remains true today. So make sure your first home, or your child’s first home, is protected. Too many people accept that homeowners insurance is necessary, yet they dismiss the idea of renters insurance.
Don’t dismiss it. It’s not merely a line item in a monthly budget. It’s real protection against real-life risks, and it means you won’t have to start over with nothing if bad luck strikes. Because, unfortunately, sometimes it does.
In the end, you want that first apartment of your very own to mean a lifetime of fond memories. Like mine.